Have You Tried Us Yet?

If not, here's your chance to try us for free.  Your credit card is not required to take advantage of our free offer.

Click for Free Proofreading Sample

Answers to July 24, 2014 Grammar Expert Questions


Question #1 - Singular of Plural

Which is correct:  The group of boys plays football or the group of boys play football?

Technically, 'group.....plays' is correct. However, 'group of boys play' is also acceptable since the noun close to the verb is plural. Better to reword as simply "The boys play football."


Question #2 - Is the teaching assistant correct?

The following sentence: "The nine categories are equally weighted, each representing, therefore, 11.1% of the city’s overall green score." was criticized for being grammatically-incorrect; the TA writing: "Only grammar issue is check your noun/verb agreement: 'each....respresents.'" I believe that the subject sentence structure is perfectly fine and the TAs criticism entirely without merit (though a semi-colon before the word "each" might have been a better choice). What do you think?

We assume the TA spelled 'represents' correctly, and that the error here was merely in transcribing. If not the case, the TA needs more than grammar help!

The sentence is indeed correct as is. Changing to 'represents' works only if the comma is changed to a semicolon. And in fact, if you were to change to a semicolon, it would not be correct with 'representing' but only with 'represents'! In running text, semicolons separate complete phrases or they separate complicated elements in a list.

We can only assume the TA misread the sentence. I sure hope so.

Question #3 - Forming Possessives of Proper Nouns

When a name ends in "s" such as Charles, to make the possessive, do you just use an apostrophe (Charles) or do you use apostrophe s (Charles's)?



The simplest rule is that if you add a syllable, add the s after the apostrophe.


It is Charles's house


Other examples:

  • a bass's stripes
  • Kansas's legislature
  • Jesus's followers
  • Dickens's novels
  • Josquin des Prez's motets
  • Marx's theories
  • Xerxes's armies

no s added:

  • politics' true meaning
  • economics' forerunners
  • this species' first record
  • the United States' role in international law
Hope this helps.


Question #4 - Singular or Plural (again)

When using the word 'number' as in "a small number of samples" is the noun singular (number) or plural (samples)? Which is correct? A small number of samples [is or are] needed. Thank you!

Though technically the verb goes to the first subject, most grammar books indicate that it is best to relate the verb to the nearer noun (even if that noun is the object of a preposition) which in your sentence is "samples." So it would be "A small number of samples are needed."

Of course, if "of samples" is not present, the verb would be "is."


Question #5 - Who or Whom?

Which is correct: "Who do these changes and actions need to be communicated to?" or "To whom do these changes and actions need to be communicated?"

The latter is correct. The subject is "changes". You need an object of the verb 'be communicated' and whom works for that object, who does not.


Question #6 - Have or Has?

Here's one I'm struggling with. Do you treat names of companies with the word "associates" as singular or plural?

  • Doe and Associates has been in business since 2003.


  • Doe and Associates have been in business since 2003.

I prefer the first one, and I think it makes sense as the company is "one company."  But I have a client arguing with me.

Definitely go with 'has' - it is ONE company name. Think of "Sears & Roebuck":  Sears & Roebuck is at 123 Main Street.

The only way to use "have" is in the following example: Doe and her associates have been working together since 2005.